A Rare Long-EZ
On Jan. 31, 2008, this modified Scaled Composites Long-EZ completed the first manned flight of an aircraft powered by a pulsed detonation engine (PDE).   The flight was the result of five years of innovation and cooperative effort between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Innovative Scientific Solutions Inc. (ISSI).   The project used the popular homebuilt Long-EZ designed by Burt Rutan as a platform. 

Engines normally burn fuel and air at subsonic speeds to provide propulsion.   Pulsed detonation engines detonate the fuel-air mixture into repeated, controlled explosions.   The resulting supersonic shockwaves create thrust.   In this PDE engine, the thrust is expelled through four tubes out the back of the aircraft.   Remarkably, the PDE engine in this aircraft was made in part from off-the-shelf automotive parts. 

Pulsed detonation engines are still in their infancy, but this technology may become common as it matures. PDE engines are much less complicated and promise to be less expensive to operate than jet engines. Moreover, they offer a fuel savings of between 5-20 percent over traditional turbojet engines. 

This aircraft was delivered to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in 2008. (NMUSAF)

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